Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 9, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Supreme Court Justice Michael Ryan

  |   Video
  • Justice Michael Ryan recently retired from the state’s High Court after a judicial career that spans more than two decades. During that time, he presided over the criminal trial of former Governor Evan Mecham, the AzScam political corruption trial, and the Phoenix Suns drug case. Hear what Justice Ryan has to say about his career and the state of Arizona’s judiciary.
Guests:
  • Michael Ryan - retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice
Category: Law

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Last week justice Michael Ryan retired from the Arizona supreme court after a judicial career that spanned more than two decades. He was a trial judge who worked on some of the state's most high profile criminal cases, including the Phoenix Suns drug scandal, the trial of former governor Evan Mecham, and the AZSCAM legislative corruption case. Justice Ryan spent the latter part of his career as an appellate court judge. And in 2002, governor Jane hull appointed him to the Arizona supreme court where he remained on the bench until his retirement, August 6th. Joining me now to talk about his career and his thoughts on Arizona's judiciary is justice Michael Ryan. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Michael Ryan:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Why are you retiring?

Michael Ryan:
Well, I thought it was time. It's nearly 25 years, and my wife is retired and she wants to spend a little more time with our family, and I wanted to have some flexibility in my schedule. I still want to do stuff with the court and judicial system, and I plan on doing that, but I just wanted to have a little bit more flexibility in my schedule.

Ted Simons:
Difficult decision?

Michael Ryan:
Very difficult. I agonized over it for the past year. And I eventually decided towards the spring that I think it was time for me to go.

Ted Simons:
Let's go back to the beginning. What got you interested in law?

Michael Ryan:
It was somewhat very serendipitous. I had thought I was going to be a teacher, but at the time, back in the early '70s, the jobs for teachers were similar to today. It was very difficult. And I had an opportunity to go to law school, and I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. And so law school is a natural for me since I majored in English and I liked reading and writing and so forth. So it seemed like a good fit to me.

Ted Simons:
And it worked out very well. I want to ask you about your distinguished military service, two purple hearts in Vietnam, correct?

Micheal Ryan:
Correct.

Ted Simons:
How did that -- let's talk about the military service in general. How did that shape you in later years, especially on the bench?

Michael Ryan:
Well, it shapes you in many ways. In one way it does shape you as it does give you the discipline to do the job that you are assigned to do and try to do it in the very best possible way you can and to get the best possible result in the most efficient way that you can. And it helps -- the military training and so forth also helps you to focus. People have trouble focusing sometimes on the task at hand. I think that's what the military really prepares you for, is to focus on what you have to do at that moment. And, for example, a trial judge has to handle a whole host of different things at the same time. It's almost like being a platoon commander sometimes it gets so hectic. But if you're able to keep calm and keep focused, you're able to get the job done.

Ted Simons:
And this may be a redundant question considering some of the attributes you just described, but what makes an effective justice? Is it someone who is obviously focused and disciplined and these sorts of things? But are there things that we wouldn't ordinarily think about that would make for a good justice?

Michael Ryan:
If you're talking about a justice --

Ted Simons:
Yes.

Michael Ryan:
on the Arizona supreme court, yes. I think you need to have focus and you have to have a lot of self-discipline because you're essentially working almost as a one-person law firm. You have a couple of law clerks to help you and so forth, and you can talk to other justices, but you have to prepare for each case by yourself. And you draft the opinions on your own and you have to try to keep up with the workload. That requires a lot of discipline and focus. I think another attribute of being a good justice is humility. I say that because, you know, people think of justices as being all knowing and maybe sometimes arrogant, but a good justice at any supreme court level has to have some humility because you don't know everything about every aspect of the law. Something new comes up every time. And it really helps -- you may have an opinion about something, but it helps to have the humility to listen to someone else and say, wait a minute. I was wrong. You're right. And you change your mind and change your opinion on something.

Ted Simons:
Compare and contrast that with a trial judge.

Michael Ryan:
A trial judge should have humility, but I think the best attribute a trial judge should have is patience. Because you are dealing with a lot of different people. You're dealing with court staff, jurors, litigants, attorneys who may have cases in several different courts at the same time. You have other staff that you have to deal with, the clerk's office and so forth. So you're managing a major operation being a trial judge. And so you need a lot of patience, and you've got to deal with people respectfully and with, as I say, a great deal of patience.

Ted Simons:
You managed -- I shouldn't say managed as a trial judge -- oversaw and judged some pretty high-profile cases here in Arizona. I want to kind of briefly touch on just three of them. Let's start with the Suns drug trial. What are your memories there? What are your thoughts on all that?

Michael Ryan:
Well, the presiding criminal judge comes walking in -- we had heard some rumors that there was a grand jury investigation going on. I really wasn't paying too much attention to it because I was pretty busy on other stuff. The criminal judge comes walking in and says, I've got a case for you. It turned out to be the famous drug -- Phoenix Suns drug case. It made national news obviously. And then one of the major crises that occurred in the case was the grand jury transcripts were released. And during the testimony that was heard by the grand jury, there are a number of players who are named that had been at parties where supposedly cocaine was used, but they either weren't involved or didn't use it or were never charged. So you had this national embarrassment for some of these players. I felt really bad for some of them. And the other problem I saw that I had to confront was the intense media scrutiny. Every day there was reporters outside my office waiting for motions to be filed and so forth and so on. And I had experienced some media coverage of various cases but not to that extent.

Ted Simons:
Speaking of media coverage, let's move on to another case, the Mecham trial. I'm guessing that made the Suns case look like minor league? Compare and contrast, again, what you saw, your memories of the Mecham and this governor with the indictments in there and some of the other cases. Did that seem like -- anyone who was here at the time, it just seemed like a zoo.

Michael Ryan:
It was a zoo because you had the impeachment trial in the Senate before they had the criminal trial. And that trial, which was presided over by chief justice Gordon who was the chief justice of the supreme court at the time, was televised gavel to gavel. And then when the criminal trial came up after governor Mecham had been convicted by the Senate, they had the criminal trial -- they brought forward the criminal trial on other charges that he hadn't been tried on in the Senate. And channel 8 came forward and said, we'd like to cover this gavel to gavel, which meant my children couldn't watch Sesame Street in the morning. At any rate, everyone agreed to it. So we did that. That was a very different experience because it was the first time, at least in Arizona, I think the first time in the country, that they had gavel-to-gavel coverage of a trial, criminal trial in a superior court. That was quite an experience. Part of the problem was picking a jury because so many people knew about everything that happened and so forth. So it took us a couple of weeks to pick a jury. But once we got a jury picked, things went pretty smoothly after that. And so we did okay.

Ted Simons:
Did you do okay with the AZSCAM trial?

Michael Ryan:
The AZSCAM trial, most of the defendants -- I think there were 16 or so defendants -- most of them plead guilty through the manner of the trial. That trial lasted about seven months. Most of the time the jurors and myself and the lawyers and the two defendants, the prosecutors were listening to tapes or watching videotapes of these various bribery transactions and so forth, and it went on for hours and days, day after day after day. And in the middle of that trial, the major informant or the person the County attorney's office used to be the mobster who was buying off these people to have legalized gaming here published a book, and it came out in the middle of the trial. Of course the defense attorneys were going crazy because he revealed grand jury stuff that went on in the grand jury, which is supposed to be secret and so forth and so on. So during the day I was listening to them. At night I would have to go home and read the book and then I would have to go and ask the jurors if they had heard about the book, read the book and I would have to tell them they couldn't read the book and stuff.

Ted Simons:
Wow! Crazy stuff

Michael Ryan:
It was.

Ted Simons:
We're running out of time and there are a host of things I want to ask you. I want to ask you generally the state of your thoughts on the judiciary and merits on the selection of a judge? Any concerns on that? It seems to be a topic, some people like it, some people don't. Where do you stand on that?

Michael Ryan:
I'm a firm believer in merit selection. I've gone through the process at three different levels -- the superior court, court of appeals and finally the supreme court. And frankly without merit selection, I would not have been a judge. I would not have run for election. And I think that the merit selection, it does have some faults but it's probably the best -- I think it's the best way to select judges. The major criticism is well, we can't get rid of bad judges, but we're working on that the court is constantly working to improve the information about judges performance so voters can make reasonable judgments about who to retain or not retain as judges.

Ted Simons:
Okay. So overall, with merit selection included, state of the judiciary right now in Arizona strong?

Michael Ryan:
I would say strong, as long as we get enough funding. That will be an issue.

Ted Simons:
Indeed. Justice, it's a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us.

Michael Ryan:
Thank you. Thank you very much.

Arizona-Mexico Trade

  |   Video
  • Wendy Vittori, President of the Arizona-Sonora Manufacturing Initiative, and Luis Ramirez, President of Ramirez Advisors Inter-National, discuss trade with Mexico and what it means to Arizona’s economy.
Guests:
  • Wendy Vittori - President of the Arizona-Sonora Manufacturing Initiative
  • Luis Ramirez - President of Ramirez Advisors Inter-National
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Securing the border between Arizona and Mexico. It's a major topic of late, but it doesn't mean targeting legal traffic. Arizona "Counts" on visitors from Mexico who spend nearly $3 billion in our state annually. And Mexico is Arizona's biggest trading partner. In 2008, Arizona's exports to Mexico totaled $5.9 billion. More on that in a moment. But first, here's what a couple of experts had to say about improving the benefits of trade with Mexico.

Erik Lee:
Arizona needs to take a broader view of the Mexican economy and the dynamics that are occurring within Mexico's economy. Sonora is a border state. It's the state we've had very close relationship with for 51 years now. But the Mexican -- Sonora is not the Mexican economy. Sonora is part of that equation, but the main concentration of wealth in Mexico's economy is really in the three largest cities and those are Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara in the south. That's where the wealthy are and that's where the deals need to be made.

Margie Emmermann:
I think we need to continue working on expanding our trade opportunities. That's one of the things that few organizations like ours, the Arizona Mexico commission and chamber of commerce and all the trade organizations, we need to recognize what things like the can mex corridor are and what infrastructure is being developed along that corridor that really can benefit our economy and take advantage of that. There's a great project that’s happening in Mexico. Punta colonet, really understanding what that will mean nor Arizona and how that can be met. And banding together and making sure what will be the benefit for us and how can we develop Mexico so the situation with immigration can really benefit from all of that.

Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk about trade with Mexico are Wendy Vittori, the president of the Arizona-Sonora manufacturing initiative, an effort to make the region's manufacturing sector more competitive. And Luis Ramirez, the president of Ramirez Advisors, a firm dedicated to international business and government affairs. Good to have you both on "Horizon." Thanks for joining us.

Wendy Vittori:
Thank you.

Luis Ramirez:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Mexico is Arizona's number one trading partner. Give us some numbers here.

Wendy Vittori:
As you heard, there are a tremendous amount of exports that go into Mexico from Arizona. In fact, about a third of our exports are headed toward Mexico. And so that is a really key opportunity for Arizona businesses to grow and expand their sales in the Mexican market.

Ted Simons:
These leading industries in that trade.

Wendy Vittori:
Computers and electronics products are the leading ones. Followed by machinery, then we have electrical, appliances, things like that, plastics, rubbers and finally in the top five, primary metal manufacturing.

Luis Ramirez:
Hang on. That's something that is more determined just on the value. We also have a huge sector that crosses the border which is produce, fresh produce. In terms of volumes, the produce industry actually imports more fresh produce from Mexico through Nogales, Luis and Douglas. In terms of volumes, the number of trucks coming in. That's the largest product coming in from Mexico.

Ted Simons:
Is that product, is that trade increasing over the years?

Luis Ramirez:
We've seen it increase. It's been a positive, one of the few positive messages in terms of international trade that's continued to definitely not lose but actually grow. We're now importing some four billion pounds of fresh produce from Mexico worth about 2 to $3 billion. Most of that comes from the Port of Nogales.

Wendy Vittori:
Luis makes a good point. Our trading relationship is bilateral. I was looking at it. I think the largest single item is tomatoes.

Luis Ramirez:
Absolutely.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. We heard on the taped piece a project and it's a deepwater port project south of Tijuana. Talk to us about this and how this might impact trade involving Arizona and Mexico.

Luis Ramirez:
It will actually impact North American trade with Asia. It's a deep seaport conceived when Long Beach, the two largest ports really in the entire North America were saturated and they were looking for alternatives. How are we going to get that merchandise to and from Asia in and out of North America. Just about 100 kilometers south of Ensenada they're now looking at a major deep seaport. Originally they were talking in the capacity of almost as much of 6 or 7 TEUs. It's going to require not only the deep seaport but a rail connection from 200 miles south of the border all the way to the U.S. border connecting to the U.S. railroad system.

Ted Simons:
Promising.

Wendy Vittori:
Absolutely. The number one opportunity that we have is the exports in terms of building our businesses in Arizona. We today have an opportunity that we're not taking full advantage of. If you look at -- it sounds like a lot, around $5 billion of exports. If you look at the total picture of exports to Mexico, it's only about 4%. So if you think about it, a state like Texas which has a GDP five times that of Arizona, has twelve times the amount of exports to Mexico. So there's a big opportunity there and I think we can start to take advantage. This kind of logistics and infrastructure building is one of the things that are critical to our success in the future through all of the exports.

Ted Simons:
Is that kind of infrastructure, though, especially a rail line through Arizona, is that in jeopardy because of something like 1070? How is that coloring this debate?

Luis Ramirez:
That type of infrastructure is many years in planning all the way through seeing a rib won cutting of a first train or a truck pulling through. What is having a greater impact on those projects is really the economic slowdown that is happening not only in North America but globally. That is -- when I started mentioning very large projects that is going to be paired down and developed in phases, that's because of the flow, the trade flows between Asia and the United States. That's had a much bigger, deeper impact than any piece of legislation has had.

Ted Simons:
Is that what you're seeing as well? This topic, we just can't escape this thing. It seems relationships between certain parts of Arizona and certain parts of Mexico are strained. How does that impact? What are you hearing as far as impact in trade?

Wendy Vittori:
I think when people think about the export opportunity, of course they look at the total business environment. We need to be thinking about that as we look at different legislative initiatives. I think the opportunity here is to kind of shift some of that attention away from problems and on to opportunities. What can we do to help Arizona businesses? Particularly small and medium size businesses. Over 80% of these exports are manufacturing exports and small companies participate in that. We have over 4,000 manufacturing firms in Arizona. And so if we start to get more of our fair share, again, I go back to $130 billion of exports, that's to Mexico. As we look at raising Arizona's percentage from 4%, could it be 6%? Right now, just to quantify that, about 85,000 -- the estimate is about 85,000 jobs in Arizona are related to the export economy. So think what it would mean if we could raise that number by only a couple of percent.

Ted Simons:
And the market, the Mexican market, a lot of folks don't seem to realize that there's an expanding middle class in Mexico and that's prime material right there, isn't it?

Luis Ramirez:
And actually, my own firm has seen a tremendous amount of renewed interest towards Mexico as the U.S. economy has slowed. People are looking to diversify their markets. Mexico for us, it's an obvious first step. Close, you know, you can drive to, Sonora you can drive into Mexico and be there two to three hours. It becomes easier from a logistics perspective, yet you're doing business internationally. Mexico has a population of 12, 13 million people so there's disposable income available. Mexico finances are better than they've been in a long time. The national reserves in Mexico has exceeded 100 billion which now exceeds Mexico's foreign debt. They're actually better than the U.S.

Ted Simons:
Real quickly. What is a maquiladora.

Wendy Vittori:
That's a special kind of factory set up in Mexico. There's special legislation in Mexico that permits that. Essentially goods can go to that factory and be assembled and then be shipped back to the United States and now on to other locations. In fact, it's a good point here. Mexico has been very aggressive in establishing trade agreements. They have them now with over 40 different countries. And so those include places like Japan. So that a company that is actually producing a product in Mexico has the opportunity to ship it to many other countries from there.

Ted Simons:
As far as jobs as well, some critics will say jobs in Mexico, jobs with the maquiladoras equals a job lost in America. Is that a zero sum gain? Is that what goes on here?

Wendy Vittori:
We don't really think so. Obviously if you look at an individual situation, there could be that situation. But if you look in aggregate, our real opportunity is to provide exports which are growing and they're creating over six million jobs in the United States today. This is why President Obama, for example, has announced the export initiative as one of his key initiatives for this year. And for Arizona, again, we are sort of underperforming the growth of many other states, states like Connecticut, states like South Carolina, not just Texas in terms of growing our exports. So it's a big opportunity for us. It's not just the Mexican market. There are global markets that need that exact same product.

Ted Simons:
Last question, quickly. What do we do? What does Arizona do to get higher up on the list?

Luis Ramirez:
I think, this is one of the focuses that I pay a lot of attention to, one of the main things we can do is improve our ports of entry. I actually believe, you know, we can talk about immigration, we can talk about new laws. The thing that is impacts most, how many people cross the border, how many trucks cross the border is the bottleneck of the border. How long is a person standing, waiting in a car, how long is a truck idling in order to cross the border? I think that is one thing we can work on, is the border infrastructure that it facilitates for Arizona's perspective. Some 25, 26 million crossing Arizona's Port of entry on an annual basis. That's northbound traffic. That's 25 million people coming in legally into this country through Arizona every year.

Ted Simons:
We have to stop it right there. Great conversation. Thank you very much.

Wendy Vittori & Luis Ramirez:
Thank you.

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